With a new book on the way, we were thrilled and honored to conduct an email interview with social media’s leading physician voice KevinMD. His new book Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices is scheduled for release on February 22 is an evidence backed resource for physicians and practices who are looking to establish themselves in the online world. For those who don’t know, Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician who practices primary care in New Hampshire. His website KevinMD.com is regularly hailed as a top resource for the healthcare community.
MDWebPro: As social media’s leading physician voice, how did you get involved with social media?
KevinMD: I started KevinMD.com in 2004 to give physicians a more prominent voice on the web. This is important for two reasons. The first is to connect with patients. According to a recent study from Pew Internet, 72% of web users look online to look for health information. However, in another survey, fewer than half said that they “always” checked the source of the information they read. That can be a problem, when you consider how unreliable online health information can be.
Social media gives physicians and other health providers an opportunity to either guide patients to reputable sources of health information, or create reliable health content themselves.
A second reason why physicians need a more prominent online voice is because of health reform. Our health system is set to drastically change, yet most of the decision making comes from politicians or policy experts who don’t often see patients, if at all. Health reform needs to come from the ground up, starting with the doctors in the exam room. It’s important to share stories about the obstacles they face in our broken health system. By using social media, the decision makers can listen to problems that doctors face every day while trying to give the best care they possibly can to patients. And, just maybe, that will make a difference.
MDWebPro: Your new book is titled Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. Why did you feel it was necessary to author a guide of this nature?
KevinMD: More online patients are researching prospective physicians on Google — 44% according to Pew Internet — or through a doctor rating site. How a doctor appears on a search engine result page can be a patient’s first impression. And if that impression is a negative news story, or worse, a bad patient review, patients may look elsewhere for another doctor.
Most physicians I talk to aren’t aware of how they appear online, or dismiss its relevance. But consider how online reviews have disrupted other industries, like books, movies or hotels. Would you go to a hotel, or dine at a restaurant, without reading a review online first? I wouldn’t. The same goes for healthcare. Eventually, most patients will “meet” their doctors first on Google before setting foot their office.
Online reputation and social media advice is often scattered on the web. In a single, convenient resource, my book will teach physicians easy ways to establish an online reputation. It also profiles 12 leading physician rating sites, and provides guidance on how to respond to negative reviews, and act professionally online.
Perhaps its strongest feature are the dozens of perspectives and anecdotes from a diverse cross-section of physicians and patients. Through these stories, readers can see how other busy, practicing doctors are using social media to both enhance their online reputation and improve patient care.
It’s only a matter of time before an online reputation will be just as important as a reputation in the community.
MDWebPro: With social media opening a two way street between physician and patient, how do you see healthcare social media growing in the next five to ten years?
KevinMD: Transparency will play a more influential healthcare role going forward, and social media will be a part of that transformation. A survey from YouGov found that 81% of patients believed that if a hospital had a strong social media presence, it would likely be perceived as “cutting edge,” and that 57% believed that a social media connection was likely to have a strong impact on their hospital choice. And according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 75% of consumers expect healthcare companies to respond within a day or less via social media.
Healthcare facilities are nowhere close to meeting those expectations. As health reform pushes us towards a more transparent health system, social media will be vital for doctors and hospitals to better connect with patients.
MDWebPro: What’s the single most important take away a reader can expect from Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices?
KevinMD: Establishing an online presence doesn’t take a lot of time. I know doctors are busy — they see patients, do paperwork, make rounds in hospitals — and the last thing they want is “one more thing to do.” But consider the alternative. If they are passive online, others will define them instead. It could be a rating site, which may contain negative patient reviews or inaccurate information.
Get comfortable online. Go to LinkedIn and create a profile that lists your professional accomplishments. Doing so takes about 15 to 30 minutes, but it’s a powerful act. LinkedIn profiles tend to get ranked high when Googled, so it’s a way to proactively create content associated with your name.
If you decide to stop there, fine. You’re already ahead of the majority of your peers. But if you decide to participate in other social media channels, like Twitter, Google+, or Facebook, it can only help broaden your digital footprint, and better define yourself online.
MDWebPro: Any final thoughts for physicians or medical staff who are looking to make the leap into the healthcare social media world?
KevinMD: Social media isn’t just for connecting with patients. It can also be a powerful learning tool. The problem I have with the web is that there’s too much information to read, or too much data to sift through. Social media can filter and curate that information. Take Twitter, for instance. You can follow others who have similar interests, and simply listen to what they have to say. Or you can click through and read the articles they share. It’s like having a personal curation service who can pick and choose the best, most relevant articles on the web.
I read my personal, curated Twitter list several times a day, and it’s the most powerful way to stay up to date in health care, policy, technology and social media trends.
About Kevin Pho, MD
Kevin Pho, MD is a practicing, board-certified internal medicine physician, co-author of the book, Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices, a national media commentator, and an acclaimed keynote speaker.